As Curt Guyette recently noted on our news blog
, researchers at VA Tech and Hurley Medical Center in Flint have pretty much proven that Flint's decision to connect its water system to the Flint River has resulted in higher lead levels in Flint's water — and its children. It's clear that there's a kind of public health emergency going on, and some officials are demanding action. As Chad Livengood's story in the Detroit News
reports, "Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich urged Gov. Rick Snyder on Monday to help Flint switch back to Detroit’s water system."
It's clear some sort of measure to at least temporarily switch Flint back to a real water system, with control chemicals that keep lead from leaching into the water supply, would be a good move for the health and development of Michiganders. (How many of those children with high lead levels will be reading well by the end of the third grade, for instance?)
Snyder's office was remarkably restrained for an administration facing a problem this serious. A statement from a spokesperson in the article said: "We believe protecting public health is paramount and safe, clean, accessible drinking water is essential. That’s what we are focused on helping ensure and deeply share the senator’s commitment to helping address the issue.” Sort of a tame response, isn't it? Where a leader should probably leap into action, Snyder's office seems to act with all the speed and verve of an ailing panda. And the "spokespersonese" of the response is especially grating, sort of like getting a recorded message after dialing 911 because your house is burning down. "We believe protecting your house from burning down is essential. That's why your call is important to us. Please stay on the line while we remain committed to helping address your issue ..."
The spokesperson also said the governor’s office had no comment on Ananich’s idea but was "reviewing" it. (What's to review? We were under the impression Gov. Snyder was tough enough to get important things done. How to fund it? Perhaps the $500 million socked away in the state's rainy-day fund would go a long way toward fixing this mess.)
In fact, one wonders if Gov. Snyder would have as muted a response if the problem had affected, say, Grand Rapids, or some other city, instead of Flint, where decisions made by his emergency managers conducted directly to this public health hazard.